Plug-and-Play Equipment

Self-contained, skid-mounted booths are giving employers new options for emergency showers and eyewash.

WHEN we were kids, a game of "tag" always had a "home base" or a safe zone, where the unfortunate player who was "it" couldn't get to us. At the first sign of trouble, all players knew to make a beeline for home base. The concept of Enclosed Emergency Environments (E3) is similar in many respects. Industrial accident victims have a place where they can go and enter a welcoming private environment, ready to assist in mitigating their injuries.

The emergency equipment market has been moving toward E3-type products for some time now, chiefly because of the complexity of individual system components and the difficulty in properly integrating various components into a fully functional overall system. The challenge of mating drench showers to eyewashes or eye/face washes, with varying water supplies and demands, as well as the further complications of multiple shower/eyewash installations--which possibly could be needed simultaneously--is a tough situation in itself. But if you add in disbursed equipment locations, activation monitoring, and, lately, the need for tempered water or reverse tempering, the challenge multiplies.

Today, it's really difficult to stay abreast of all of the requirements and products, let alone select and match the various components. The E3 concept, aside from its obvious ability to be viewed as a "safe zone" environment, has gained great traction in the marketplace because the equipment manufacturer, with its core competencies in design and specification, designs and builds a balanced, self-contained package of equipment that specifically meets each customer's individual needs. These engineered "plug-and-play" systems feature components that are matched to assure the greatest effectiveness in any reasonable circumstance, by people who do this type of specification work all day, every day.

Like all great ideas, with E3s everybody wins. Workers sense and receive greater security, and management has the peace of mind in knowing the system components are matched to its circumstances and will operate in optimal fashion, even when placed in less-than-optimal environments.

Booth Environments
Because E3 booths can be needed in a variety of environments ranging from ultra-cleanrooms to refineries, their construction and materials vary. Booth designs and successful installations exist, ranging from the use of plastic and resin compounds through all-stainless-steel construction. E3s can be designed for indoor or outdoor installation, in any weather conditions--hot or cold, wet or dry. Seasonal weather fluctuations also can be accommodated in booth construction materials and internal componentry specified.

Another advantage is that because the E3 is an enclosure, it protects the individual and the emergency equipment from both the elements and a possibly corrosive atmosphere. And an enclosure answers once and for all the issue of victim privacy. But in this case, the variety of booth configurations generally allows sufficient space inside for emergency assistance to be performed by a second individual, while the victim is being showered and/or irrigated.

While a booth configuration serves to keep the outside elements out, it also keeps warmth from tempered water or cool reverse tempered water temperatures in, serving to make the victim much more comfortable, obviously aiding in his or her using the equipment for a full drench or irrigation cycle.

In many industrial environments, the snarl of pipes, ducts, racks, conveyors and the like often obscures the visibility of emergency equipment. This is yet another advantage of E3s. Their size and color most often act as a billboard of sorts, facilitating a panicked victim's ability to find them in a hurry.

As mentioned earlier, most E3s are engineered to be "plug-and-play." That is, they are pre-engineered packages usually having a single water inlet connection, a single electrical connection, and a single outlet connection for possibly sharing functions, such as tempered water, with other emergency equipment installations.

Various booth sizes and configurations are available, depending on need and componentry to be used. Each has sufficient doors and access panels to ease both use and maintenance.

Internal Configurations
A complete spectrum of emergency showers, eyewashes and eye/face washes can be specified for E3 use. Tempered water, using either an integral hot water heater or external steam heat, often is needed. Reverse tempering is also available where either high ambient temperatures--heating nearby water--or high water temperatures in hot climates are present.

For certain conditions, a combination of both tempering and reverse tempering can be specified. Additionally, E3s can be equipped with integral booster or re-circulation pumps to assure sufficient water pressure or maintain a prescribed temperature range. Likewise, a variety of electrical classifications can be specified in any voltage requirement, while also meeting hazardous, weather-proof, or corrosion-resistant standards or any combination thereof.

For remote locations, air-charged systems are also available. This would handle remote situations where there might be power available but not a suitable supply of water.

Finally, E3s provide an excellent platform from which to generate an activation alarm. They can be equipped with flow or proximity switches to signal activation, as well as door opening switches, if needed. Their high visibility lends itself to local alarms, horns, or sirens, and they are an excellent, elevated base upon which to mount wireless remote monitoring components.

Industrial Applications
For all of the reasons mentioned to this point, E3s enjoy a wide industrial application reach, mostly because they concurrently address a number of challenges faced by today's specifier. Just a partial list of indoor and outdoor industrial applications includes:

  • Chemical processing
  • Petroleum processing
  • Power plants
  • Tank farms
  • Pulp and paper mills
  • Smelters/metal refining
  • Mining
  • Wastewater treatment
  • Food processing
  • Laboratories
  • Schools and universities
  • Automotive
  • Aerospace
  • Electronics and fabs
  • Medical facilities
  • Military bases

And the list continues to grow.

E3s are the future of industrial emergency equipment. While it might have been acceptable to thread together some pipes, unions, valves, and a shower head in the past, the science of safety has moved far beyond those beginnings. E3s are the state-of-the-art packaging for state-of-the-art componentry. And updates to newly developed components are automatically made a part of E3 packages.

While we all hope no worker ever gets "tagged" by an accident, it's reassuring for us all to know that a "home base" is nearby.

This article originally appeared in the May 2004 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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